Remarks by Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan
Chief of Mission Residence | May 21, 2019 | 6pm – 8pm
Asalaam aleikum. Akwaaba.
Welcome, everyone, to our home. I would like to start by recognizing several of our distinguished guests:
His Excellency, Chief Abdul Qadir Tahir, President of the National Council of Muslim Chiefs in Ghana;
The Honorable Ameer of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Maulvi Alhaji Mohammed Bin Salih;
The Most Reverend Daniel Silvanus Mensah Torto, Anglican Archbishop of Accra Diocese
Leaders of faiths; former Government officials;
Representatives from various councils,
academic associations, women’s associations,
U.S. exchange program alumni, and prominent community leaders and mentors, ladies and gentlemen.
The National Chief Imam has long been a staunch advocate of dialogue and peace, most recently evidenced by his attendance at Easter services at a local Catholic church. He has set a new standard for modeling interfaith harmony. While tonight is the first iftar dinner my husband and I have hosted personally, it is not the first we have attended. Some of you have invited us into your homes to break the fast. Nor is it the first iftar offered by a U.S. government official. Our third President, Thomas Jefferson, hosted the first iftar dinner at the White House when he welcomed Tunisian envoy Sidi Soliman Mellimelli on December 9, 1805. For over two hundred years,
Muslims have contributed to the American story. From “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali (whose photo with President Kwame Nkrumah is displayed in our embassy); to public servants, such as three current Members of the U.S. Congress and former U.S. ambassadors, including the first Muslim U.S. Ambassador Osman Siddique, who swore his oath to the Constitution on the Quran; award-winning actors like Mahershala Ali; journalist Fareed Zakaria, the first Muslim woman in space, Anousheh Ansari; and the millions of Muslim Americans who contribute to our nation’s development, whose names we may never know…
Our Islamic brothers and sisters continue to enrich the American fabric, just as being able to spend this evening with all of you enriches my team and me. For Muslims across the world, Ramadan is a time of prayer, fasting, and reflection. To me, it is a great wonder to realize that as the sun sets this evening here in Accra and around the world, hundreds of millions of Muslims sit together with their neighbors to break bread.
In a few hours, Muslim Americans in the United States will break their fast too. And many will do so with people from other faiths, as synagogues and churches open their doors to neighbors and friends who are observing the holy month. Indeed, whether celebrated in homes or in houses of worship, iftars foster a sense of community. They nurture understanding. They provide an opportunity to learn about some of the differences among faiths. And they also underscore the similarities and shared values.
Sharing a meal together chips away at perceptions of the person sitting across from you as the “other.” As we heard from one of our younger guests, the Quran says that God made people into nations and tribes so that we may know one another. It is in that spirit that we have gathered for this interfaith iftar. Regardless of faith or denomination, religious institutions throughout Ghana play a prominent role in supporting both civic engagement and democratic development. They facilitate access to health care, establish schools, and build shelters for vulnerable members of society. Representatives of the different faiths are active on local peace councils. They mediate conflicts and intervene when tensions begin to brew, reaching out directly to members of their communities — young and old alike — to keep the peace.
Our mission closely engages with both Muslim clerics and Christian clergy on addressing corruption, child protection, and more. That partnership was strong 20 years ago when my family and I first served here, and it remains strong today. One important aspect of Islam, particularly this time of year, is zakat – or charitable giving. In line with our shared goal of promoting children’s health and education, earlier today the Embassy donated food packs, including rice, oil, and canned tomatoes, to students at the Al-Za-KI-ya and Gbawe Islamic basic schools.
We hope these contributions allow families to enjoy a meal together, and for children to go to bed with full stomachs, and to wake up energized for another day of learning. As Abdullah and Mufidatu are here representing those schools, I would like to ask them to come up to also accept, on behalf of their peers and classmates, a few books for their school libraries.
Thank you for being a part of our evening. May your thirst for knowledge never wane, and may doors of opportunity be open to you. And for the adults in the room, let’s renew our efforts to strengthen our countries’ ties. Let’s pave a path toward a more deeply rooted democracy, a more inclusive economy, and a more peaceful world for Abdullah, Mufidatu, and all of Ghana’s youth.
To close, I want to thank you all for being part of this fellowship, and for taking another step with us toward fostering interfaith dialogue and harmony. The United States and Ghana share a deep commitment to freedom of religion.
We look forward to continuing our engagement with your good offices to promote tolerance, prosperity, and peace. On behalf of the United States government and American people, I wish you and your families a blessed Ramadan. Please help yourselves to the buffet.